There is no shame in finding business tips and tricks on TikTok. But if you want to follow in the footsteps of your favorite entrepreneur or tech titan — think Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett or Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example — you might want to crack open one of the books where they share some of their most valuable lessons.
For example, Zuckerberg wrote in a 2015 Facebook post that he liked “reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies.” The 37-year-old billionaire is turning to those books, he said in another post, for insight into “what drives innovation — what kind of people, questions and environments,”
He is far from alone, especially among his fellow successful business leaders.
Below, four entrepreneurs share the books that have shaped their careers, business strategies, and—in a few cases—the way they think:
1. Mark Zuckerberg
In 2015, Zuckerberg read “Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration,” by Alice Wallace and Edwin Catmull, co-founder of Pixar. It tells the story of how the animation studio became a titan of entertainment innovation.
It seems Zuckerberg learned at least one lesson from the book: “Don’t wait for things to be before you share them with others,” Catmull wrote in the book. “Show early and show often. It will be beautiful when we get there, but it won’t be beautiful along the way.”
“Ready is better than perfect” was painted at Meta’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California.
Zuckerberg wrote that he was also impressed by Jon Gertner’s “The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation,” which tells the history of Bell Labs – which was founded by Alexander Graham Bell and now owned by Nokia.
2. Daymond John (and fellow sharks Barbara Corcoran and Robert Herjavec)
Shark Tank investor Daymond John told CNBC Make It in 2018 that a handful of books changed his life. Some of those titles include “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey and “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter.
But John — and fellow sharks Barbara Corcoran and Robert Herjavec — also recommended Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” The 1937 business book features interviews with Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and Charles M. Schwab, and it dissects the psychology behind why people make fortunes — or why not.
“The book teaches you: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it,” Corcoran said in a 2017 documentary based on the book called “Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy.” She also said the book taught her that she could “always hire the props from the next guy that you don’t have yourself.”
3. Warren Buffett
Buffett also learned that the best business advice comes from people who know the industry. In the documentary Becoming Warren Buffet, the billionaire investor said he had already “virtually memorized” FC Minaker’s “One Thousand Ways to Make $1,000” as a 7-year-old. The book – now out of print – contains anecdotes about the retailer James Cash Penney, of JC Penney fame, and other successful entrepreneurs.
In 1988, Buffett told Fortune magazine that the book — which reveals practical business lessons about compound interest, sales and investing — inspired him to start selling Coca-Cola, newspapers, and chewing gum door-to-door.
To develop business acumen, leading business executives Bill Gates and Warren Buffett also recommended “Business Adventures,” journalist John Brooks’ analysis of notable moments in the history of iconic American companies like Ford and General Electric. Buffett lent the book to Gates in 1991, and Gates noted that he still had it in a 2014 blog post.